Let’s face it there are “salads” and then there are “SALADS” which means it is more than just putting a few greens in a bowl, stir, + top with dressing, Some people describe it as a vegetable sundae which I think is a creative way to look at salads! I think of my salads as a collage of color, texture + of course flavor.
There is a level of “skill” + “art” in creating a perfect salad, and it starts with the ground. You need to feed the soil and make sure it is nourishing your salad greens.I rotate crops in our small Urban Potager to keep our soil healthy and only use organic practices throughout the growing seasons. I tell people all the time, “There is an art to making a perfect salad.” I am talking about a fresh salad from the garden. It is one that is carefully grown from seed and cared for by a gardener. We gardeners pick the leaves at just the right time to put them all together in just the right “balance” of color, texture, flavor, and visually because who doesn’t “awe” at a beautifully created salad.It is an art form!
I need to pick just the right types of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) to grow, for example, some lettuce leaves increase their color + flavor in cool weather, and there are some that “tolerate” heat a bit better by not getting bitter. I believe everyone needs to grow their lettuce seeds out + make a decision as to what they prefer.I practice succession planting in our small urban potager, so I only use “loose-leaf” types of lettuce which are “cut + come again.” There are many kinds to choose from so just pick up some seed and try a few to see which ones you prefer in your salads each season.
We have VERY humid weather early in the season and late summer/early fall, so lettuce greens have to hold up to our difficult growing environment. I review after each growing season which “seeds” germinated best, grew in our climate by not bolting quickly, did not develop a bitter taste early, were beautiful and held up to “cut-and-come-again” practices, and how they looked after they were washed.
I also like to incorporate with lettuce a variety of vegetables + fruits which I feel are “contrast elements” to add to the beauty and visual interest of the foundation of a great salad.Our spring salads, summer salads, and fall/winter salads all incorporate, different, contrasting elements. It depends on what is available, for example, edible flowers, baby kale, arugula, spinach, snow peas, corn mache, radishes, swiss chard, pak choi, sorrel, mustards, and strawberries might be some of our first for the season. When our season turns late, summer/early fall new additions may enter the mix such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, basil, parsley, tatsoi, carrots, beans, berries, onions, radicchio/chicory, kale,chervil, smallage, currants, raspberries, blackberries, etc. If you grow it, and it works in a salad, well, the list is endless!
Those of us living in the city deal with limited space, but our area is large enough to grow fresh salad mixes all season long. If you have a small balcony or porch, you can grow salad greens. Once you work from the ground up to create a great salad mix from your own growing space, you will no longer need to purchase a salad mix from the local store chain.